On Attachment – 1 (My Phone)

Hey, guys. Long time no see. I must say I didn’t exactly plan for there to be such a long hiatus, but the last couple months of the year generally are a difficult time for me, (more on that later..) and I didn’t have much energy to write.

This is the first post in a series I’m calling (you guessed it!) “On Attachment.” Attachment issues are something that many Autistic people face, including myself. Once again, this post (and series) will be something that is more related to the way that experience my Autism, as opposed to generally, across the spectrum.

I’ve experienced this since I was a child – forming strangely close relationships to inanimate objects, more so than people. For this reason, times like the holidays, and in my case, Christmas, are quite hard for me.

Around this time of year there’s always a sense of “out with the old, in with the new”, in my environment at least. In the days leading up to 25th December, I’m encouraged by family members to throw stuff away, or donate items that I no longer use to charity. Over the past few years my family has become more understanding about this and don’t complain too much if I leave mostly everything as it is, but the expectation to get rid of some things is still there.

Then comes Christmas Day. I receive new things. Sometimes I receive things to replace items I already own, and that comes with its own set of challenges.

This year, it was my phone.

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I got this phone in 2013, after my old one (which, incidentally, I had had since 2009) died. It was blue, my favourite colour, and had a lot more features than my old one did. It could take photos and videos, and I could use more sophisticated apps than my old one could manage.

I’ve had it for three years, and it’s safe to say that it has been through a lot with me, as weird as that sounds. It’s been to different countries with me, it’s been to school with me. It’s a comfort item. Something that soothes my anxiety when out in public; a reminder that I can always leave and go home. I’m used to the way it feels in my hands, and the fact that, in order to increase the volume, you have to jam the volume button extra hard due to its stiffness.

I didn’t ask for a new phone this Christmas, but my contract on my old one was up and besides, my old phone has been on the fringe since last year. I got a newer model, and was happy and very grateful.

But there was a sense of doom there, too, as melodramatic as it may sound. Because I knew I would have to give up my old phone.

I procrastinated changing the sim card for an entire day before my family questioned me, and a couple of hours ago from the time I am writing this, I finally changed it over. My phone is now officially the new one.

And I felt awful. I felt like crying.

To me, losing a comfort item like this, or otherwise, replacing it, is sort of like the death of a pet. I know I’ll get over it in due time, and it definitely doesn’t compare to other potential problems, but it still hurts. I still have to go through a grieving process.

I’m in that grieving process right now. And maybe I won’t be tomorrow, or maybe I will, but either way it doesn’t really matter because I know that, eventually, I won’t be.

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I Am Not An Insult

Say it with me, everybody! I. Am. Not. An. Insult. 

So this is a more personal post, which I was originally saving for later – I want to make this blog as factual as possible, after all. But some things have been cropping up in my day-to-day life and in the end, I just had to write this post.

No, this post is not about the ‘r-word’ (though I’ll definitely talk about that at some point, because I have a lot of feelings about it…) rather, this is about the word “autistic” being used as a derogatory term by neurotypicals, against other neurotypicals.

Now I may be wrong in thinking this, but to me this seems like a more recent phenomenon. The first time I ever heard it being used as a direct insult was in 2011 or so – I had stumbled across a YouTube video some innocent kid had made, and the child had made the “mistake” of simply looking different. I didn’t see anything wrong with the video – in fact, I quite enjoyed it – but as soon as I scrolled down into the comments section my heart sank.

The top rated comment, with roughly 100 likes, read something along the lines of,

someone get this kids autistic ass of this website

Hideous grammar aside, the comment was truly nasty. Worse was the fact that people had saw it – over one hundred individual people – and had agreed with the comment whole-heartedly, enough to leave a ‘like’ and even create a string of similar comments in the thread underneath it.

I was not diagnosed with Autism at the time. I had no interest in the Autistic community whatsoever. (Yes, this was ignorant of me, but as an 11-year-old, my life existed in a sort of bubble.) But still, the comment gave me a bad feeling. I closed out of the tab and did not view the video again.

I am ashamed to say that I have since heard the term “autistic”, “aspie”, and other variations being used as insults more times than I can count. Ashamed not just in the person saying it, but also the person’s peers – the ones who laugh, albeit slightly uncomfortably, at the ‘joke’; the ones who, even if they don’t fully realise the extent of their actions, are encouraging this type of language. Ashamed, also, in myself, for out of all the times I have heard someone being called ‘autistic’ in that mean, derogatory tone, I can only count a handful of times where I have actually stepped up against it.

Sometimes this comes out the mouth of complete strangers – like the YouTube video, for example – and sometimes my classmates, other 16 and 17 year olds just like me, who for all intents and purposes presumably do not truly realise what they are saying and the damage that their words can yield. Other times – and I must admit, this is perhaps what stings the most – it comes from people I have however misguidedly came to trust. A popular celebrity for example once remarked that supporting one US presidential candidate over the other “caused autism”, meaning, of course, that the supporters of that candidate were idiots.

I can imagine the reactions some people may have to reading this post. Why are you getting so offended? It’s just a joke! Calm down! 

And yes, it is intended as a joke. I don’t think the boy in my Chemistry class hates all Autistic people. I don’t think the celebrity assumes everyone with Autism is stupid. I get it. It’s fun and games.

…To you.

As an Autistic person, this gives me a slightly different reaction. Physically, whenever I hear a ‘joke’ like that, I completely freeze up. I flush. I try very, very hard not to seem affected – because if I seem offended, then people will ask me why, and I’m not exactly known in my school to be Autistic (again, expect a post relating to this later). And mentally? Emotionally? My brain goes a mile a minute. I cycle through anger, sadness, anxiety, fear… Et cetera, et cetera.

When you stand in front of a public bathroom mirror, tugging at your messy hair and fixing your makeup, and exclaim, “oh my god! I look sooooo autistic today! I’m so ugly!” what I, and I can only assume many other Autistic people, hear is “Autistic people are messes. Autistic people are ugly.” 

I hear, you are a mess. You are ugly.” 

And that isn’t something that anyone should ever have to hear.

“Autistic” is not an insult. It is not an adjective. It is a developmental disorder.

A developmental disorder that I have. That many people have, and you never know if the person you are joking around with has it, too. I am not an insult. 

 

Stimming – What It Is, Why We Do It and How I Stim

Against all odds, I am back with another blog post! As you’ve probably guessed from the title, this one is about stimming. (Not ‘swimming’, as autocorrect seems to believe.)

So, what is it? It’s a word I heard thrown around a lot in the year or so after I was first diagnosed, yet I had absolutely no idea what it meant. It’s only the past couple of years or so that I know more about it, after finally vying to become a part of the Autistic community.

Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

“Self-stimulatory behaviour, also known as stimming and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders.”

Essentially, stimming is repetitive behaviours. 

Now, many people in the world stim, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they are Autistic. Reader, even you probably have a couple repetitive behaviours you find yourself commonly doing – even if you yourself are not on the Autism Spectrum. However, it isn’t a word typically associated with neurotypical people (i.e.., people without a mental disorder.)

A big reason for this is that Autistics have a different motive for stimming.

While neurotypicals may stim when they’re bored, nervous, or thinking, I, as well as may other Autistic people, stim for a different purpose. A few of the most common ones are:

  1. Self-regulation – to comfort or soothe oneself.
  2. Emotion Management – releasing energy through physical stims, for example, can help quell anger or frustration.
  3. Overstimulation – this is a big problem that a lot of Autistics face, and stimming can help alleviate that by blocking out other sources of sensory input.
  4. Understimulation – of course, Autistic people get bored, too! When the world just isn’t interesting enough, many of us will stim to increase sensory input.

Stimming can help us to calm down, express excitement or happiness, and even keep us lively and, in my case, focused.

So… How do I stim?

The answer: Well, in a variety of different ways! It’d be easier to divide it up into categories:

Overstimulation

Now that I am older I don’t get as overstimulated, but when I do, I tend to stim in the following physical ways: cracking joints, rocking/spinning, and covering my ears and humming.

Understimulation

In these situations I tend to twirl or fidget with my hair, hum, and twist my hands.

Emotional

For example, when I’m very excited or happy, I’ll flap my hands or jump up and down. If I’m angry or frustrated, I exhibit a rather negative stim – but a stim nonetheless  – scratching my skin on my arms/legs.

Stimming is of course a very nuanced and complex subject; however I hope you enjoyed reading my abridged thoughts and opinions on it.

Let me know in the comments if there are any topics you’d like me to blog about!

My Inevitably Awkward Introduction Post

Full disclosure, this is the third time I’ve tried to start a proper, themed blog. The first was when I was 13, aiming to post about TV and film reviews. I got a few followers and a couple comments on my posts but that was pretty much it, and with the stress of beginning a new year of school, the posting faded off until, in a fit of adolescent embarrassment, I deleted the blog in 2014.

The second happened less than a year later. At the time, I was keeping up with a lot of blogs and found myself inspired by their posts to restart my own. However, I only got to Post Number 2 on that blog before I ended up shutting it down, too.

I realise this doesn’t exactly present a flattering view of my dedication and commitment to things, but hey… Third time’s the charm, right? Anyway, now, writing this blog post, I actually have a reasonably good plan for what I want to do. I didn’t make this blog due to a short-term fascination or lack of impulse control. I’m making this blog because I want to make a difference.

Though I can’t predict the future it is safe to say that this blog will consist mostly of posts about Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder, of which I was diagnosed with in 2013.

I have a number of posts planned out and hope to see you then! For now, I’ll wrap this up.